Is your personality right for your job?

If you’ve ever spent time looking for a new job, you probably know that it isn’t easy. Searching on job boards, talking to recruiters, turning up to interviews just so you can be judged! (Let’s face it…that’s what it is). None of it is fun.

Now, the process isn’t easy for hiring managers either. At times it can seem as though finding the right candidate is like looking for a drop in the ocean. Sure there are loads of willing applicants to choose from…but how do you find the right one?

Cognitive ability (i.e. ‘brain box’ skills, like learning, memory and problem solving) has long been used as a predictor of job performance, with some success. However, researchers are increasingly turning to the role that personality plays. By studying personality we can get an indication of a person’s capacity for creativity, leadership, integrity, attendance and cooperation. These attributes appear to have a major part to play in job fit.

Personality, not just intelligence, is what needs to be measured.

In the last few years there’s been a lot written on the potential for using personality traits to help match people to jobs. Research has tended to focus on the ‘Big Five’ personality attributes:

Drops in the ocean. Credit: Tim Marshall

Drops in the ocean. Credit: Tim Marshall

If personality can have an impact on your job performance, how do you know which attributes are most important…and for which roles? Plus, how do you find out what makes ‘you’ tick in the first place?

None of us are suited to every job, so knowing what personal attributes will do best in a role is key to being able to find a match with the right person. This should be the aim of all involved in the hiring process. Better job matches lead to increased job satisfaction (better for you), which in turn leads to better productivity and lower staff turnover (better for employers).

So, what do the experts say about the components of the O.C.E.A.N. model?

We’re not going to examine them all here, but let’s take a look at a couple.

How about extraversion? It seems pretty straightforward to think that individuals with outgoing personalities will work well in roles that require lots of interaction with others, but may struggle in a job that demands long hours of toiling alone in isolation. Similarly, a naturally introverted person with good interpersonal skills can muster enough extraversion to make a public speech, but they could struggle if their job required them to do this all the time.

(Sidebar: It’s an often neglected fact that many aspects of modern working life, from traditional hiring processes, daily office interactions and the perceptions of management are naturally biased in favour of extraverts. As someone with strong tendencies towards introversion…be kind, we’re people too!)

Credit: Buffer Blog

Credit: Buffer Blog

The most promising findings of studies centred on the Big Five have highlighted the role that conscientiousness plays as an indicator of job performance. An article by Amy Hodges-Rice looks at the relationship between personality attributes and customer service outcomes. Her summary is built around research undertaken by psychology professor Stephan Motowidlo (Rice University), whose research suggests that employers should consider a candidate’s personality and interpersonal skills when hiring, as well as their technical knowledge.

Motowidlo concluded that “…individuals who are identified through tests as highly conscientious are more likely to be aware of how good interpersonal interactions positively affect customer service—and are more likely to behave this way”. His findings reflect the growing understanding of the manner in which the ‘right’ personality traits can positively impact on job performance. He goes on to write:

 “People who know more about what kinds of actions are successful in dealing with interpersonal service encounters—such as listening carefully, engaging warmly, and countering questions effectively—handle them more effectively, and their understanding of successful customer service is shaped by underlying personality characteristics.”

 Cool…so conscientiousness is a key determinant for job performance, right?

Not so fast.

Separate analysis carried out by Robert Tett suggests that conscientiousness can sometimes be detrimental. It all depends on the role, but there are a couple of main reasons why conscientiousness may not be all that its cracked up to be:

  1. It can mean getting less stuff done. Conscientious types tend to be meticulous. Some roles will need you to make quick decisions with incomplete information. It’s hard to be thorough AND fast. (Not ideal for occupations that operate with emergency situations and high time pressures.)
  2. onscientiousness can stifle creativity, innovation and spontaneity. A key part of conscientiousness is being dependable and that can mean a tendency to always follow the rules. (Perhaps best to avoid occupations like musician, actor, or being an entrepreneur, where productivity is often enhanced by freedom from rules.)

So it seems that conscientiousness is generally accepted as the best predictor amongst the Big Five…but too much of it can be a hindrance. Extraverts will be highly suited to some roles…but not others.  And that’s before we’ve talked about openness to experience, agreeableness or neuroticism.

Credit: Nashad Abdu

Credit: Nashad Abdu

Where does that leave us?

We’re trying to help answer that question.

At skillfox, we think that finding the job that’s right for you should involve learning more about yourself…and having fun in the process! We’re developing a short quiz that can help give you a snapshot of your personality attributes. This snapshot can then be used to suggest or match you to roles that suit who you are.

Employers are increasingly looking at these factors when making hiring decisions.

If you’d like to be part of the coming jobs revolution you can start by completing this questionnaire. By doing this you'll be helping us to develop an important part of our job-matching algorithm. It will only take you 6-7 minutes to complete.

Ultimately, our goal is to make it easier for people to reach their maximum potential. We want to do this by helping you to find more fulfilling and more purposeful work!